BATON ROUGE, La. (KPEL News) - Louisiana's own version of a bill dubbed "Don't Say Gay" by critics has advanced out of committee, though opponents of the bill are crying foul.

“This bill would erase someone like me,” Maxwell Cohen, 27, who identified as transgender, said amid three hours of testimony from opponents of the bill on Tuesday. “This piece of legislation tells queer kids that they must hide, that they don’t matter and that they are wrong. But we know that’s far from the truth. We must protect queer kids and acknowledge them for who they are, because they exist, they are special, and they matter.”

The House committee heard testimony from several in the trans and education communities.

The bill in question is House Bill 466, which was authored by Republican Rep. Dodie Horton of Haughton. It's been described by critics as a "don't say gay" bill - one that restricts the discussion of gender and sexuality in public school classrooms.

The framework is similar to the Parental Rights in Education Act that passed the Florida legislature last year and was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

"Our children are to be taught and not indoctrinated or confused," Horton said at the time she presented the bill. "This bill has nothing to do with anyone's personal lifestyle. It has to do with protecting our children. Period."

HB 466 advanced from a Louisiana House committee on Wednesday by a 7-5 vote, and would ban public school staff in K-12 schools from teaching or discussing gender identity and sexual orientation, including during any extracurricular activity.

Supporters of the bill argue that such topics should not be part of any discussion in schools, and that it's inappropriate for such conversations to take place between teachers and students. But opponents of the bill argue it would marginalize students who identify as LGBT and cause mental or emotional harm.

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